The Reformation Herald Online Edition

God’s Law: The Grand Charter of Freedom

Understanding Moral Purity
Understanding Moral Purity
James White
Excerpts adapted from A Solemn Appeal by
What is impurity

Impurity [historically referred to as unchastity] includes all the action, whether of body or mind, which is forbidden by the seventh commandment. And all that is therein forbidden, may be included under the two following heads:

1. Impurity of the mind.

2. Impurity of the conduct.

The mind

By impurity of the mind, is meant the conception of impurity in the mind, the cherishing of impure desire. All sin has its seat in the mind. The seventh commandment, like every other, extends to “thoughts, and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). . . . “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). And with this agrees another scripture, which says, “Out of the heart proceed . . . adulteries” (Matthew 15:19).

The conduct

By impurity of the conduct, we are to understand the acting out of impurity in any of its various ways of developing sinful thoughts, as,

1. By impure conversation, writing, looks, and gestures. “Speech is the mirror of the soul.” And hence it is that “by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). But significant looks, writing, gestures, etc., being but substitutes for words and the tongue, are, like them, capable of being made the ministers of sin; hence, also, they must be subject to the same general law.

Impurity in the sight of God

Impurity, loathsome and abhorrent as it is in the sight of good men, is infinitely more so in the sight of God. This is sufficiently evident in the conduct of the divine Being in relation to it. The prominent place He has given to the law forbidding it—having written it in common with nine others, on tables of stone, for the universal government of universal man—and, also, the sanction He has placed upon it—having announced it amid the most sublime and awful, symbols of the divine presence which the world ever witnessed—these considerations make it abundantly evident that God looks upon impurity with the extreme of loathing and abhorrence.

This view, however, is further evidenced in the fact that throughout both Testaments, impurity is made the subject of frequent rebuke, in language of the greatest detestation. Against no other form of sin are men more frequently and earnestly admonished. . . .

Causes of impurity:

1. Early corruption

We notice bad education as a cause of impurity. Children are born in a perfectly uneducated state. They know absolutely nothing until they learn something. Now, by education, we mean the conveying of knowledge to the mind in any and every possible way. Thus, if the mind be compared to an unsoiled, white sheet, then the writing and impressing of ideas thereon we call education. Well has the poet said:

“ ’Tis education forms the common mind;” and certainly it has much to do in forming the moral character. By bad education we mean the filling of the mind with bad ideas. . . .

Paul says that “evil communications corrupt good manners.” No sooner is it said, “A child is born,” than an infant is subjected to “evil communications,” i.e., put in communication with an evil, sensual world. And that manners are thereby corrupted, has been often proved while the child has been yet in the nurse’s arms, and this, too, in a most serious manner. Nurses, by manipulating infants to cure their crying, have been known to give them a notion, which has resulted in the habit of solitary vice. This, the reader will say, is early education with a vengeance. And yet, numbers of instances of this kind are on record. The reader must judge for himself how many are unrecorded. In these cases, the victims, with a fatal precocity, live but to linger a little, unless they are saved by some happy influence next to miraculous.

2. Tainted influence

The society of impure parents educates children in impurity. It is surprising to see how early the child catches the traits of the parental character. So intimate is the parental relation, that to avoid this is quite impossible. The looks, the gestures, the words, the insinuations, at first a mystery to the child, are soon solved by its tiny reflection. Children are listeners at a very early age; and the smile of approbative indifference with which the parent speaks of deeds of lewdness, as they are occasionally occurring in community, is very soon transmitted to the little listener; and the child concluding, of course, that that cannot be very wrong which is smiled over, learns to look upon such deeds without abhorrence.

Again, children are ever associating with their superiors in age, in a series, extending from earliest childhood, up through youth, to manhood and womanhood. And this association is so intimate that generally what one knows all know, and what one does all are tempted to do. Now, through this series of associations, every licentious adult necessarily throws a licentious influence back down to the borders of the nursery. Thus, while one instructed child becomes himself an instructor, and indeed, while every child is both pupil and teacher—receiving lessons from the older, and handing them down to the younger—it is by no means wonderful that the process of education goes on so rapidly. And when this education is of a sensual character, why should it be thought remarkable that some of the forms of impurity should be found in very early childhood. . . .

3. Awareness of dangers at school

Children at school are sometimes educated more in wickedness by bad associates, than they are in righteousness by their proper teachers. But even the education proper of the schools has sometimes been very unfavorable to chastity. The mind has, even there, sometimes lost its balance by constant efforts to strain upon the intellect to the neglect and expense of the moral sentiments. The animal propensities left to a constant revel, man grows sensual and brutish.

4. Reforming the mental choices

We notice ignorance as one of the causes of impurity. Ignorance of the extent of the claims of the law of chastity is a negative cause of sad mischief. That this law demands a chaste mind, as well as chaste words and actions, is to many a new idea. That it forbids solitary vice, is unknown to very many of the oldest men of our day. And many who deem solitary vice wrong, see nothing wrong in the cherishing of amorous reveries and “lascivious day-dreams.” And still more are they who have no idea of the excesses of married life being by this law forbidden. The consequences of this ignorance are, as we have already seen, just what might be expected—one is a mental adulterer, another is an onanist, and another still is a married, legal, sensualist—and all three, if not perfectly at ease morally, are kind of conscientious, and think themselves innocent of any violation of revealed law! Now who will wonder that impurity should, under these circumstances, spread itself so rapidly? . . .

5. Escaping the “couch potato” lifestyle

Sedentary habits, unrelieved by sufficient exercise, increase the liabilities to impurity. Exercise is the law of the human constitution.

6. Guarding the eyes

Bad books, pictures, etc., are a powerfully exciting cause of licentiousness. No one has ever seriously disputed the apostolic declaration that “evil communications corrupt good manners.” Neither is the old proverb questioned that “a man is known by the company he keeps.” But evil communication with books, no less than with men, corrupts good manners. And the sentiment is worthy of passing into a proverb, that a man is known by the books he reads. Books are men. Not paper men, but men on paper. And these influence the character of their readers as do men in the flesh the character of their companions. Show me a man’s books, the books of his choice, and I will show you the man himself. Let me control the reading of a rising generation, and I will prophesy. A bad book is a bad associate; a good book, a good one. Sensual books tend strongly to make sensual readers. Many novel readers know this, and every reflecting, candid person will admit it. [This is even more true today with the easy access to movies, videos, and DVD materials in circulation.] . . .

Children should be taught the importance of right and wrong, and the consequences

of them.When the mind and the body are not properly employed, and the person is living on without any sufficient object, a sort of sluggish inanity pervades the system, time hangs heavily, and he feels that a want of employment is a want of happiness. The restless imagination now roves the fields of sensuality in pursuit of pleasure. It revels amid the amours and loves of its own creation, and soon brings the system under strong lascivious influences. The higher feelings of the soul finding no objects worthy their activity, the lower feelings—the propensities—enter into it, and take possession. Hence it is that the idle and the lazy are far more generally the victims of vile habits, and especially of licentious ones. . . .

7. Cultivating the intellect

As the moral sentiments do most to form the character, so should they be most carefully educated. Children should be taught the importance of right and wrong, and the consequences of them. They should be early taught to make right a primary source of enjoyment, and to look upon wrong as a primary source of misery. They will then see that a life of mere sensuality is quite unworthy of their dignity, and hence will look higher into the sublimer region of the moral virtues for the means of happiness.

The intellectual education of children must also be attended to. The power of perception and of reasoning from causes to consequences must be early improved. Then will they be far more likely to see and flee from the sins of destruction. They will be more capable of appreciating any arguments used with them against their evil practices—and indeed they will be far more likely to discover the evil of any secret practice, of the evil of which they may never have been admonished.

When the intellect and moral sentiments are justly cultivated, the subject may be regarded as comparatively safe. But the cultivation of these would be far less important, were it not that when they are healthy and active, the lower passions, and especially the amative one, find far less motive power in the imagination, and consequently are comparatively and sufficiently quiet. The person with an active intellect, sanctified by the moral sentiments, rises above the world of passionate sensuality, and looks down upon it with unmingled disgust.

8. Choosing the environment

We have elsewhere noticed society as an educator. Parents and guardians will see the importance of withdrawing their children as much as possible from bad society. Children, however, must not be secluded from society altogether. This were, under ordinary circumstances, as injudicious as it is judicious to give them the purest society which their case and location admit. Let parents and guardians remember, too, that they are necessarily the prime educators of their children, and govern themselves as an enlightened love for children will dictate. Much may be done, too, by school teachers, ministers, and indeed by every one whose influence extends to children. But, in order to teach, parents, teachers, ministers, etc., must be themselves instructed. But some there are who tell us that instruction on the subject of impurity can serve only to aggravate the evil, or at least that it does more hurt than good. . . .

9. Walking in the light

Is it better that man should be governed by passion, than that passion should itself be subject to enlightened reason, and he be governed by the latter, aided by revelation? If it be not better, then let reason be enlightened upon the subject. If light is better than darkness (and Jesus says he that walketh in the dark stumbleth), then let light be poured upon the path of every son and daughter of Adam. Raise the light over the shoals! Lift the beacon indicating the whirlpool. Hoist the flag over the precipice! Point to the cloud in which wrathful fires are gathering, and cry in the ears of all, DANGER! DANGER! “Do thyself no harm!” “Because there is wrath, beware!!!” In a word, say anything—do anything which can serve to alarm the old, the young, the middle aged, of the dangers from any and all the forms of impurity. . . .

10. Constructive activity

Nothing is more important to the prevention and cure of impurity, than activity. More lust is generated during the leisure hours of sluggish inactivity than during all others. It is during these stupid seasons of dreamishness, that the blood accumulates upon the venereal system, while the imagination strolls about creation, bringing in the fruits and flowers of every forbidden tree. . . . Let parents take the hint, and bring up their children to active labor. . . .

In summary to those in difficulty

“What shall we do?” was the significant inquiry of certain persons of John the Baptist. Would to God that this might be the language of all my readers in view of the claims of the cause of moral purity. Now we do not profess to stand in the place of Christ’s forerunner. But, as reflection and examination have taught us something, we think we may safely presume to give some directions to as many readers as are sincerely asking the above question. . . .

“The person with an active intellect, sanctified by the moral sentiments, rises above the world of passionate sensuality, and looks down upon it with unmingled disgust.”

As a parent, then, you are to consider well the exposure of your children. You are to read with interest whatever professes to be able to open your eyes on this point. You are to feel the exposure of your children, and count no labor too great or too expensive to secure them in virtue. You must shut up from them the avenues to impurity. You must early make them see that you are solicitous for them, and also make them understand why you are so. Against the mischievous habit of solitary vice, you must watch and warn faithfully. You must begin this work early. If you wait till foul society has filled their minds with lascivious idea and images, you will not only find the task of instructing them far more difficult, but also far less promising of permanent good. Begin early, then. Fix a pure habit upon a child, and a fear of breaking it while it is yet greatly incapable of understanding the whys and wherefores of your wishes. But do not neglect the whys and wherefores too long. Introduce these into the minds of your children as soon as their minds open sufficiently to receive them. John Newton said he had no fear of the enemy’s filling the hearts of the young with tares if he could first get them filled with wheat. But be assured, parent, that in order to get the advance of Satan in this matter, you must begin early, even at break of day.

Nothing is more important to the prevention and cure of impurity than activity.

Your own example, as we have elsewhere intimated, must be every way correct. You must make your children see that you discountenance and detest impurity in all its forms. You must watch the social influences which your children are receiving from abroad. It is easy to crush the viper in the egg. Whenever your children become impurely insinuating, as is too often the case among children generally, correct at once by judicious measures (but always more by moral persuasion than by force), the dangerous symptom. Pay strict regard to diet, to cleanliness, to education. Be judicious in the selection of pictures, books, etc., for the amusement and improvement of your children. But for more of this see above, where we have already considered some of these points.

But if your children are already large, and your duties yet undone, even in this case do not despair. To be sure, no future faithfulness can atone for past neglect. For this you must seek forgiveness. But still you may do much for their benefit and salvation. Instruct them at once; not, however, in the nature of the sin; nine-tenths of them understand this already; but instruct them in the consequences. . . .

Would you be purified, you must pay strict attention to your diet. Avoid condiments, spices, and all highly-seasoned and highly-stimulating food and drinks. Confine yourself to a light vegetable diet; a diet which, if possible, shall overcome all tendency to costiveness. This is very important. Drink only water. Eat light suppers. Rise early—as early as you awake. You know your danger from morning lounging. Be active. Labor all you can without great fatigue. Bathe often in cold, or nearly cold, water. Carefully avoid excitement of every kind. Consider your dignity as a moral and intellectual being, “bearing the impress of Divinity.” Rise above sensual thoughts. Remember that you are allied to angels no less than to brutes—to the purely spiritual no less than to the exclusively sensual. Lift up your head and heart. Feel above sensuality, and, under God, you will soon be above it.